Mojave Road

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Vehicles traveling the Mojave Road stop for a break at Marl Springs

The Mojave Road or Mojave Trail is a historic route and present day dirt road across what is now the Mojave National Preserve in the Mojave Desert in the United States. This rough road stretches 140 miles (230 km) from the site of the old Fort Mohave (on the west bank of the Colorado River, roughly 10 miles southwest of Bullhead City, Arizona) to the site of the old Camp Cady (on the west bank of the Mojave River, roughly 12 miles northeast of Newberry Springs, California). A four-wheel drive vehicle is required for all but a few short stretches of this road, which is unmaintained. Under optimal conditions, its full length can be travelled in 2 to 3 days.[1]


A traditional thoroughfare of desert-dwelling Native Americans, the Mohave Trail much later served Spanish missionaries, explorers, and foreign colonizers and settlers from the 18th to 19th centuries who called it the Mojave Trail, and ran between watering holes across the Mojave Desert between the Colorado River and Mojave River then following it to the Cajon Pass, the gap between the San Bernardino Mountains and San Gabriel Mountains, into Southern California.[2] The watering holes recur at intervals of about 60 to 70 miles.[3]

Francisco Garcés, the Spanish Franciscan missionary, traveled the trail with the expedition of Juan Bautista de Anza in 1776. José María de Zalvidea, the zealous Franciscan administrator of Mission San Gabriel also crossed the trail in 1806, reportedly converting five indigenous Mojaves near present-day Hesperia. In 1826, Jedediah Smith became the first North American to travel the Mojave Road. From 1829-30, Mexican traders from New Mexico established the routes that came to be called the Old Spanish Trail trade route to California. The first of these a shortcut of the Armijo's route intercepted the Mojave's trail at the mouth of the Mojave River near Soda Lake.

Subsequenty in 1830, the Mohave's trail became part of what became the Main Route or Central Route of the Old Spanish Trail, linking up with it from the north a dozen miles west of the Colorado River in Piute Valley and following it westward to the link up with Armijo's route at the Mojave River mouth, and later with a short cut from Salt Spring through Bitter Spring and Spanish Canyon at a point just east of Yermo. This place was later called "Fork of the Road" where the Old Spanish Trail or from 1849, the Southern Route of the California Trail or the Mormon Road to Salt Lake City, divided from what came to be the Mojave Road to the Colorado River.

Now consolidated the Old Spanish Trail then followed the Mohave's trail along the Mojave River but instead of crossing over the mountains into San Bernardino Valley they followed a new route Armijo called "Cañon de San Bernardino" from the upper Mojave River west through Cajon Pass and down Crowder Canyon and Cajon Canyon, known to the vaqueros of the San Bernardino de Sena Estancia who had come to their aid with food.[4]

The land passed into American hands in 1848 and in early 1858 the Mohave Trail became the Mojave Road, a wagon road connected to the newly pioneered Beale's Wagon Road across northern New Mexico Territory from Fort Defiance to Beale's Crossing on the Colorado River where it linked up with the Mojave Road. Wagon trains of settlers coming west on the Santa Fe Trail, soon followed Beale's Wagon Road and the Mojave Road into Southern California. Beale's road was shorter than the route via the more southern Southern Emigrant Trail and it was cooler in summer and snow free in winter, had better forage and was better watered. Soon hostiities began between the Mohave's and the settlers, triggering the Mohave War.

From the time of the Mohave War the trail came under the purview of the U.S. government. Army posts were established at Fort Mojave, at Beale's Crossing in 1859 and after the Bitter Spring Expedition at Camp Cady, 10.9 miles east of Fork of the Road, in 1860. Later in the 1860s, smaller outposts were established east of Camp Cady along the trail and regular patrols instituted. The army protected the settlers and travelers from the attacks of the resident Paiute, Mojave and Chemehuevi Native Americans until 1871. This also opened the way for large mining development in the Mojave Desert region of San Bernardino County and agricultural development in the Victor Valley area.

The route today[edit]

The eastern end of the Mojave Road begins at the edge of the Colorado River north of Needles and the western terminus lies beyond the Rasor Off-Highway Vehicle Area and the Afton Canyon Natural Area near the Manix Wash.[5]


The following list of markers follows east to west travel.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Casebier, DG (2010). "General Guidelines". Mojave Road Guide: an Adventure Through Time (4th ed.). Essex, California: Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association. pp. 39–38. ISBN 978-0-914224-37-2. 
  2. ^ Wilcox, L. "The Mojave Road". DesertUSA. Retrieved 2013-09-06. 
  3. ^ Robinson, WW (1962). The Story of San Bernardino County. San Bernardino: Title Insurance and Trust Company. p. 78. 
  4. ^ LeRoy R. Hafen and Antonio Armijo, Armijo's Journal,Huntington Library Quarterly, Vol. 11, No. 1 (Nov., 1947), pp. 87-101, Published by: University of California Press, DOI:10.2307/3816035
  5. ^ "Afton Canyon Natural Area". U.S. Dept of Interior, Bureau of Land Management. Retrieved 2010-06-20. 

External links[edit]